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Shopping Lists Save Money and Health

Do you make a list and check it twice, like Santa Claus does to see if you’re nice? Everyone from Santa to airline pilots and brain surgeons are doing that now. Except perhaps food shoppers.


For those of us who have diabetes, nothing is more important than the type and amount of food that we eat. Making a grocery list helps us to make sure that we don’t run out of what we need. That’s been a reason why I keep a list on the side of my fridge and take it with me whenever I go to the store. But even more important, according to a new study, is that taking a shopping list with us when we go to the market helps protect us from being too spontaneous.

Our culture places a high value spontaneity, of course. A little spontaneity goes a long way, but too much can take us too far down the junk food aisles and into other temptations that will attack both our pocketbooks and our waistlines.

Saving Money and Health

A study just published in the May-June 2015 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that when people always take a shopping list with them to the store they save money, improve their diet, and decrease their body mass index. The abstract of the study, “Using a Grocery List Is Associated With a Healthier Diet and Lower BMI Among Very High-Risk Adults,” is free online at the journal’s website, and the lead author, Tamara Dubowitz of the RAND Corporation providing me with the full text.

Dr. Dubowitz and her associates did their research among randomly selected households in two low-income areas of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These people have limited access to healthy food, which the study calls a “food desert,” but in my experience almost all of us live where not much good manna is dropping from the sky.

Smart Shopping

It can’t be too much to ask ourselves to prepare for our trips to the store. As far as I know, birds don’t do it, but most of our brightest people do keep a checklist, reports Atul Gawande, the famous surgeon and the best medical writer in the business. His article a few years ago in The New Yorker tells how checklists have begun to transform intensive care. He followed up with his bestselling book, The Checklist Manifesto.

I was delighted to read both when they appeared. I wholeheartedly recommend them to you if you think that you are perhaps too intelligent, too sophisticated, or too spontaneous to shop with your own checklist.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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